Ellen Geller Kamaras
Nearly 300,000 participants joined together in Washington, D.C. for the March for Israel on November 14th. Additionally, 250,000 watched on livestream from around the world. The last rally of this magnitude took place in the 1980s to support Soviet Jewry.
A Diverse Crowd, Diverse Speakers
Supporters from across the U.S. joined together at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Synagogues, yeshivot, high schools, and Jewish Centers sent busloads of attendees, and many flew in from across the country. Jews of various backgrounds and non-Jews as well came to proclaim their unity with Israel and each other as we face the biggest threat since the Holocaust.
Omer Adam and Ishay Ribo, wildly popular Israeli pop icons, and the popular acappella group, the Maccabeats, performed songs of healing and hope throughout the program. Grammy-nominated artist, Matisyahu, whose real name is Matthew Miller, sang the well-known song, “One Day” in a surprise appearance. “The world has no idea how Jews come together,” he told the crowd. “Let’s go!”
The lineup of speakers included leaders of Jewish organizations, family members of hostages, Israel’s president and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., a ZAKA representative, celebrities, influencers, politicians, college students, Jewish advocates, and supporters of Israel of other faiths.
Why We March
The massive March was put together in just ten days by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. It was promoted as “an opportunity for all Americans to come together in solidarity with the people of Israel, to demonstrate their commitment to America’s most important ally in the Middle East, to condemn the rising trend of anti-Semitic violence and harassment, and to demand that every hostage be immediately and safely released.”
Most of the speakers espoused robust support for Israel as it strives to defeat Hamas, despite being advertised as a “big tent event,” with a broad range of views. One exception was when Van Jones, CNN political analyst, was cheered for voicing solidarity with U.S. Jews but was jeered for calling for an end to the bombing of Gaza.
Regarding calls for a ceasefire, Ariel Ben-Chitrit, a 33-year-old federal government worker from Herndon, Virginia, stated,, “A ceasefire is a pause that would allow Hamas to rearm.” He expressed regret that Palestinian civilians were suffering and Gaza hospitals were being subjected to extreme conditions, but said the only way to end the conflict was to eliminate Hamas. “Hamas has proven they are not interested in peace.
Several speakers echoed Ben-Chitrit’s concerns regarding Palestinian civilians and conveyed regret that Palestinian civilians were suffering, and Gaza hospitals were being subjected to extreme conditions. However, they reiterated that the only means of ending the conflict was to eradicate Hamas, given that their heinous acts have proven they are not interested in peace.
Cries of Bring Them Home Now and Am Yisrael Chai rang out over and over during the rally.
The program opened at 1pm with speakers expressing their outrage at the increasing global and U.S. anti-Semitism.
Speaking for college students, Columbia University student Noa Fay, affirmed, “I am a black, Native American, Jewish woman and I will not be silenced. I will continue to shout… We are far from hopeless. We are far from helpless.” She described how over 100 professors have advocated for the destruction of Israel on the Columbia campus.
Deborah Lipstadt was confirmed by the US Senate last year as the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, with the rank of Ambassador.
Ambassador Lipstadt spoke in a strong voice proclaiming, “This government stands shoulder to shoulder against Jew hatred. We give anti-Semitism no sanction, no foothold, no tolerance, not on campus, not in our schools, not in our neighborhoods, not in our streets or the streets of our cities. Not in our government. Nowhere. Not now, not ever.” She closed her speech with, “Chazak v’amatz!” – be strong and of good courage.
Focus on the Hostages
Three family members of hostages addressed the crowd. Orna Neutra, mother of 22-year-old dual citizen Omer Neutra, urged every American to contact their elected representatives to help bring her son and all the hostages home. Omer was serving as a tank commander near Gaza when he was captured.
Alana Zeitchik shared her agonizing story. “I wake up each morning to remember this truth: My family is being held hostage by terrorists.” Six of her family members were violently taken hostage from their kibbutz on October 7th.
Rachel Goldberg, the mother of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, asked, “Why is the world accepting that 240 human beings from almost 30 countries have been stolen and buried alive?”
Twenty-three-year-old Hersh ran into a roadside bomb shelter after escaping from the Nova Festival. Hamas threw grenades into the shelter. Witnesses reported they saw Hersh lose an arm (which he survived} and that Hamas took him to Gaza.
Political Figures Join In
Natan Sharansky, former Soviet refusenik and Israeli statesman, portrayed the Jewish people as “one fighting family, a family that is so strong, which has so much love. And know that there is only one outcome in this battle: our victory.”
Brooklyn’s own Charles Schumer, Senate Majority Leader, spoke and held raised hands with House Speaker Mike Johnson and Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic Minority Leader, demonstrating that bipartisan leaders stand with Israel.
“Hamas’s goal was to scare us. Those perpetrating the poison of anti-Semitism around the world are trying to scare us, but we will not allow history to slide back to the days of the Holocaust when Jews were targeted and murdered and butchered.”
The program ended with musical performances by Adam and Ribo, the Maccabeats singing Gd Bless America, a group sing along of Am Yisrael Chai, and blessings for the attendees to return home safely.
AM YISRAEL CHAI!
fePhoto Credits: Morris Antebi
To Do List
- Keep the hostages in the forefront in your prayers and on social media.
- Contact your representatives to express your gratitude to President Biden and Congress for supporting Israel’s right to defend itself. Firmly request they continue to vote to approve aid for Israel.
- Demonstrate our strength and unity. We will not allow the haters to intimidate us.
- Recognize that Israel’s fight against Hamas is the same as the U.S. fight against ISIS.
- Advocate for Israel everywhere, in your community, on social media, and with your friends and colleagues. Reach out to your alma mater to fully protect all Jewish students.